Canada and Australia will not be sending athletes to the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2020. The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee announced Sunday night that they will refuse to send athletes if the Games are not postponed, becoming the first country to officially announce their intentions to withdraw from the games barring a postponement. Australia followed with a similar announcement a day later.
The decisions come as a result of the health risks posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the postponement and cancellation of numerous sporting events all over the world and is threatening the status of the 2020 Games in Tokyo, which are slated to begin in late July.
In a press release published Sunday, the COC and CPC urged the IOC to delay the Olympics by one full year.
"While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community," read the statement.
"This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow."
Canada's decision comes after USA Track and Field and USA Swimming both publicly urged the IOC to postpone the Olympics in order to minimize risk and cater to the needs of the athletes involved. Italy has also strongly pushed for a postponement.
The Australian Olympic Committee's executive board held a meeting via teleconference on Monday and unanimously agreed that the country's Olympic team shouldn't participate due to the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus.
The AOC added that "our athletes now need to prioritize their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families." In addition, the AOC wants their athletes to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
"It's clear the Games can't be held in July," Australian Team Chef de Mission for Toyko Ian Chesterman said. "Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them."
"The athletes desperately want to go to the games...but they also take onboard their own personal health," AOC CEO Matt Carroll said on Monday. "We need to give our athletes that certainty and that's what we've done."
and the IOC has released a statement saying they are looking into the scenario and conducting full assessments of the outbreak.
"The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement," read the IOC's statement.